Dr Christine Lehnen
Lecturer in Creative Writing
I research the historical novel, political writing, vulnerability in contemporary literature, and the representation of the past in the present. As a creative practitioner, I write political essays and literary fiction. In my practice as author-academic, I focus on how to combine politics and fiction, intervene through fiction in the crucial debates of our time, and illuminate the shape of the new literature engagee of the twenty-first century.
Both creatively and critically, I am interested in vulnerability and how the past is told in the present: Who do we remember? Who do we forget? How does an event become history, how does history become myth? And what violence do these myths do to us in the present? I am currently preparing three books on the subject: Envoys, a literary historical novel set in 1180 BCE, Remembering Women: Lessons from the First Millennium BCE, a narrative non-fiction for broader audiences, as well as a monograph on the current state of the literary historical novel entitled Grievable Bodies and Marginalised Histories: The Historical Novel after Postmodernism.
Remembering Women has just been acquired by Icon Books and will be released in 2025.
- historical fiction
- cultural and collective memory
- representations of the past in the present
- gender studies
- political writing
- prose fiction
- the novel
- the creative and political essay
- fiction that matters
- narrative non-fiction
- literary realism after postmodernism
- contemporary women's writing
I am looking forward to supervising work in any area of my research expertise, in particular on the contemporary historical novel, representations of past in the present, literary realism after postmodernism, vulnerability in literature, political writing, women's history, women's memory, contemporary women's writing, and 21st century literary fiction.
Research through practice
My creative and academic practice are inexorably intertwined. They are in a fruitful conversation with each other that allows me to ask urgent research questions as well as explore one and the same research questions with different methods, painting a fuller picture of useful answers.
To give you an idea of this interplay, which also opens up the research to much broader audiences, I am currently preparing a monograph entitled Grievable Bodies and Marginalised Histories: The Historical Novel after Postmodernism, an in-depth stuy of literary historical fictions from the first three decades of the twenty-first century. I argue that the literary historical novel, driven by female authors and marginalised histories, has played a crucial part in moving contemporary literature on from a stale postmodernist paradigm grown devoid of its critical potential, and re-invents a radical mode of knowing the past based on corporeal vulnerability and grievability.
I began to think of modes of knowing the past because of the novel I am currently preparing for submission. It is a literary historical novel entitled Envoys, which is set in 1180 BCE. As it is set so far in the past, it inevitably made me question how we can access the past in an ethical, critical, and productive manner. I found that the answer was to put my body physically into the spaces where the history I was writing about had taken place. The novel centres on a group of envoys who attempt to prevent the Trojan War, as well as the myth of Penthesilea, leader of the Amazons who came to fight at Troy.
This is why the novel required field research in Turkey, Greece, and elsewhere. These trips raised important questions about the way we remember the past in different places (Turkish cities have no trouble remembering and celebrating the historical warrior women of the Bronze Age, whereas British society still struggles with remembering women from the past), which were more fundamental to discussions we are having as a society at the moment: Who do we remember? Who do we forget? Do we celebrate slave traders or peace activists, women or men, statues or stories? Since these questions are not strictly speaking a subject of my academic research on the historical novel, I began to write a book of narrative non-fiction entitled Remembering Women: Memories from the First Millennium BCE, which thinks about the link between the murder of Sarah Everard and countless other women every year with the ways we remember the past and the women who lived in it. The common thread of my practice, whether academic or creative, is vulnerability. How we are all vulnerable, and how the violence committed against some but not against others reveals much about the societies we live in, and how to make them better for all.
- Northern Ireland, Mourne Mountains (March 2020)
- Turkey, Hisarlik (September 2021)
- Turkey, Black Sea Coast (September 2021)
- Greece, Athens, Avlis (June 2023)
External impact and engagement
I regularly deliver workshops at municipal libraries as part of a continued outreach effort in creative writing.
I regularly produce public-facing writing to engage a broader audience in our academic debates - and to make sure that our debates reflect the concerns of the society we live in. As a part of this, I have written essays for Aeon, Antigone, Psyche, New Lines Magazine and others, particularly on women's rights, women's history, and gender equality.
Contribution to discipline
I have been a board member of the international Historical Fictions Research Network since 2021. I am a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Historical Fictions and co-organiser of the annual, international Historical Fictions Research Conference.
- "Fiction Matters" (EAS3501)
- "The Essay: Form and Content" (EAS1045)
- "Imagine This: Prompts for Creative Writing" (EAS1004)
- Creative Writing Dissertation Supervision (EAS122)
- "Structures of Realism" (EASM3133)
- Creative Writing Dissertation Supervision (EASM023)
Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences University of Exeter
PhD Creative Writing | University of Manchester | December 2023
MA English Literatures and Cultures | University of Bonn, Sorbonne Nouvelle (Paris III) | 1st | August 2018
MA Political Sciences | University of Bonn, Sorbonne Nouvelle (Paris III) | 1st | March 2021
BA English Studies and Political Sciences | University of Bonn | 1st | March 2015
Lecturer for Creative Writing | University of Exeter| January 2024- May 2024
Lecturer for Creative Writing | University of Bonn | October 2014- April 2023
Director of the Novel Writing Workshop | University of Bonn | October 2014 – December 2021
Board member | Historical Fictions Research Network | since March 2021
Associate Lecturer in Creative Writing | University of Bochum | 2015
Associate Lecturer in Creative Writing | University of Wuppertal | 2016
Novelist | represented by Susanna Lea Associates, London | since September 2016
Scriptwriter | ITV Studios Germany | from 2014
Journalist | Deutsche Welle, The Wire India, Research & Teaching and others | since 2012
LOVELYBOOKS READER AWARD (SHORTLIST)
Das Lied der Nacht, novel, 2021
LOVELYBOOKS READER AWARD (LONGLIST)
Palace of Glass, novel, 2018
1ST PRIZE, PRIZE QUESTION OF THE YOUNG ACADEMIES OF EUROPE
Short story,“Zeus/Europa”, 2016